Book Review: ‘People of the Book’: Geraldine Brooks

Posted on June 1, 2010

Based on a true story, ‘People of the Book’ follows the Sarajevo Haggadah, an early and rare Jewish volume as it is investigated by Dr. Hannah Heath, an Australian rare book expert. Moreso than just looking through a microscope and analysing inks, she finds curious things among its binding, which carry her on an investigation across several continents.

While Heath is limited by her contemporary possibilities, we as readers travel through time and space, meeting the cast of characters that are responsible for the extraordinary journey of the book. Always caught up amidstĀ  religious tension, the book always escapes by the barest of margins.

Brooks is a master of language. Juggling personalities she carefully balances obvious elements of non fiction, narration and inner monologue. Sometimes I felt that her narrator invaded things a bit much, but then it was over and I was involved in the mystery.

It is hard to compare this to the most recently published novels that I have read, but this is an extremely rare example of ‘experimental fiction’ that did not get bogged down by syrupy language, excessive descriptions or any of the hallmarks of bad writing. Brooks has truly pulled off something special.

This one I liked a lot on top of it all because I really like mysterious books. If you don’t know about the Voynich Manuscript, check it out, because stuff like that really gets me going. Either way, this book is very accessible to anyone. Brooks found a story that she wanted to tell, and she told it in a well paced and refreshing way. I haven’t read ‘Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’, but this is a great example of what modern fiction should be like. Run, don’t walk to your locally owned and operated book store to pick it up.

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